TYRE, Lebanon: Twelve years after the Israeli assault on south Lebanon, members of the Khalil family still bear the scars of the invasion and occupation. But looking back on the attack, they see events that not only scarred them, but also remind them of the strength of Lebanese people.On the third day of the monthlong conflict that started in July 2006, 11-month-old Abbas was hiding with relatives in his grandfather’s house in Tyre’s Jibal al-Butm when Israeli aircraft targeted rockets at the house.
The explosion that followed knocked Abbas from his mother’s lap. He and many of his family members suffered numerous shrapnel wounds; his mother needed to have both her legs amputated.
Abbas’ mother, Ibtisam Muhanna, hasn’t forgotten that day.
When the shelling began, “more than 15 of us gathered in my mother-in-law’s house,” Muhanna recalled.
“The next thing I remember, I was in an ambulance, and I couldn’t hear anything. I kept asking about my children and little Abbas.”
Muhanna now uses a wheelchair, but she said it’s not just the physical pain that lingers.
“Since then, I have suffered daily,” she said. “It’s a wound that’s etched on my heart.”
The Khalil family has more than just scars to remind them of the traumatic experience. On the day of the bombing, a photo showing Abbas in the hospital was published in local and international newspapers.
The infant became a symbol of the human cost of Israel’s assault on south Lebanon.
Today, 12-year-old Abbas is in eighth grade. He does well in school and hopes to one day become a surgeon “to treat poor people, especially children.” He has scars on his neck, feet and belly.
A year ago, he opened a small stand near the family’s house, selling candy and chocolate, and he hopes to earn enough money to pay a maid to care for the house and his mother.
Reflecting on the famous photo, he said: “Life doesn’t stop at injuries or tragedies. ... The first thing I see in this photo is that I am strong.”
And, with the photo a reminder of resistance, he said: “As Lebanese, we resist Israel, and we have to keep resisting.” He admires the Lebanese Army in this respect.
“My father served in its ranks, and it protected us. If not for the Lebanese Army, we would not be alive today,” he said.
Abbas’ family is a living reminder of fortitude, and he in turn has a message for the children of Palestine living under occupation.
“In Palestine, I see children like me. I want to let them know not to surrender, but rather to continue on. South Lebanon was occupied too, but it was liberated by the strength of its heroes and the steadfastness of its people.”